When junior Reyna Guggino first made contact with the mat, she was on her feet. This state of being didn’t last; the Tampa native had missed the block and subsequently under-rotated her vault, causing her to fall backward into a sitting position. Guggino had anchored a disappointing event for the No. 1 vault team in the country; a session that started the meet and put the Wolverines in an early 0.200 point hole.
“We weren’t too ecstatic about (vault),” senior Nicoletta Koulas said.
Despite falling into that hole, No. 2 Michigan (7-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) was able to defeat Minnesota (6-3-1, 2-1-1) 197.975-197.075 with a good showing in the beam and floor. The Wolverines came into the eighth Flip for Chip meet ranked second overall behind Oklahoma. Michigan was coming off three consecutive strong wins against Denver, Michigan State and Ohio State but needed to continue scoring high in order to rack up wins and keep their high rank.
At the onset of the uneven bars, graduate student Abby Heiskell slipped toward the end of her routine and was forced to back out, resulting in a disappointing 9.375 mark. That score appeared to spell doom for a team that had struggled in its strongest event in vault and was approaching its weakest in beam.
But it didn’t. Naomi Morrison followed up Heiskell’s score with a solid 9.825 on bars and Michigan never looked back.
While the uneven bar team bounced back from its early miscue, it was the five scorers in the balance beam that stole the show. Each gymnast improved on the previous one’s score until Heiskell slipped midway through her routine. Somehow, she still finished with a respectable 9.875, good for top five on the team. It was a testament to the difficulty and quality of her routine and post-stumble performance.
As graduate student Natalie Wojcik stepped onto the beam, Michigan held a 49.475 score for the event. It was the highest of their three recorded events so far and would have been a season high in the event. Wojcik, however, wasn’t satisfied.
“(As her routine finished), we (asked ourselves) is she gonna get a 10 or is she gonna get a 9.950?” Koulos said.
Wojcik got a 10. She received her first perfect mark in any event this year, and her first in the beam event since the Flip for Chip meet two years ago in February 2021. As Wojcik threw her hands up in the air, so did the sea of purple-clad Michigan fans. The team, the fans and Wojcik all knew what kind of performance they had witnessed.
A couple minutes later, unsuspecting Minnesota gymnast Mya Hooten’s floor routine was interrupted by another chorus of cheers; a fourth party had joined in agreement. The judges marked Wojcik’s score a rare 10.0, and with it the Wolverines etched a program record beam score of 49.625 into the history books.
“It was so exciting,” Wojcik said. “It was a really cool full circle moment to do it at home and at a meet that means so much to our team.”
Guggino was supposed to lead off the vault lineup before being given the anchor role minutes before the event began. No such switch happened in the floor lineup; Guggino headlined the final event of the meet. She had only averaged a score of 9.8375 this season, and was coming off a measly 9.200 in the vault. And yet, after the music cut and the judges deliberated, she received a mark of 9.875. The bounceback performance set the table for four 9.950s from the rest of the team and a season-high score of 49.675 for the No. 1 floor team in the country.
Guggino’s tale of redemption epitomized the Wolverines eighth consecutive Flip for Chip win on Friday. An early, uncharacteristic struggle in vault and bars was overshadowed by Michigan’s utter dominance in the beam and floor.
“(We started out) under what we’re capable of doing,” Michigan coach Bev Plocki said. “Coming back and not letting that get in our way (was impressive). … We just kept building.”
If the Wolverines can continue to put up similar scores, they very well could find themselves at the top of the field come the postseason. Leading the nation in vault and floor, the key clearly is an improvement in beam score.
Friday’s meet shows the potential is undoubtedly there, and as Michigan gears up for a home meet against Nebraska all eyes will be on the chalked, tan-leather beam standing four feet above the mat.
What happens on it may determine if the championship ends up in Ann Arbor.